School trustee calls for removal of Cecil Rhodes sign to address 'anti-black racism'

Jun 11 2019, 12:37 am

A Vancouver school trustee has submitted a motion to remove the Cecil Rhodes sign from a local school playground, as a commitment to “acknowledge and address anti-black racism.”

Jennifer Reddy, OneCity School Trustee, created the motion. The sign can be found at the primary playground area of  L’Ecole Bilingue located at West 14th Avenue. L’Ecole Bilingue was known as Cecil Rhodes Public School until 1977.

Rhodes was a British businessman and politician. He founded of De Beers — the diamond mining and retail giant.

Rhodes served as the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony in the late 1800s. He also founded the Rhodes Scholarship — an international award for postgraduate students to study at Oxford University in England.

Reddy’s motion states that “Rhodes was a leader in the establishment of systemic and institutional racism towards Black people in Southern Africa.”

“It is recommended that as per our commitment to acknowledge and address anti-black racism, and as supported by the school’s PAC, the VSB immediately remove the Cecil Rhodes sign from the primary playground area of L’Ecole Bilingue and any other reference to Cecil Rhodes be removed from the school property,” reads the motion.

“Notice of the removal be sent to parents at that school and through social media channels to community members outlining the reasons for removal as included in this rationale.”

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This isn’t the first time there has been a push to extract historical references to Rhodes from public spaces.

The #RhodesMustFall protest movement began in 2015, in support of removing the Rhodes statue at the University of Cape Town. The statue was taken down in April 2015.

“Any further upholding of names like CR in our district make us complicit in his legacy,” said Reddy in a statement.

Stephanie Allen, community organizer and director of the Hogan’s Alley Society says that it is “hard to believe” that some educators don’t fully understand who Rhodes is or “how deeply problematic it is to maintain a monument to his legacy on the playground of a school.”

“Black children and their families are repeatedly bringing forward the exclusion and discrimination they feel in the VSB, and in extreme cases hate speech is not responded to by administrators in a way that prioritizes the needs and safety of Black students.”

The motion will be considered before the Vancouver School Board Facilities meeting on June 19.

Simran SinghSimran Singh

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